Two first half goals from the Taifa Stars handed Malawi a 2-nil defeat in the 2018 preliminary first leg World Cup qualifier at Benjamin Mukapa National Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.
The Flames of Malawi made several changes to the squad which played to a 2-all draw away to Swaziland last month, with Chawanangwa Kaonga, Simplex Nthara and Miracle Gabeya all given their first start.
Their first chance came through Robin Ngalande in the 11th minute whose volley was well saved by the hosts’s shot-stopper for a corner.
Few minutes later, Kaonga was set through by Gerald Phiri Jnr but the former Silver Strikers forward’s shot was well blocked by the Taifa Stars’s solid defense for another corner.
Just when everybody thought that the Flames were starting to settle down, the home team got their lead in the 19th minute.
Foward Farid Mussa dribbled past Yamikani Fodya before releasing TP Mazembe talisman Mbwana Samatta, who made no mistake to beat the advanced Nthala in goals for the visitors.
Tanzania doubled their lead three minutes later in a dramatic fashion.
A low drive cross from the left flank of the field caught Nthala napping who instead of correcting the ball, played it over his right shoulder for Thomas Ulimwengu to slot home to make a cool finish, 2-0.
From there on wards, Mtawali’s boys tried their level best to reduce the arrears but the hosts’s goalkeeper was equal to the task.
John Banda had his shot well saved by the shot-stopper before denying Phiri Jnr another goal scoring opportunities.
Come into the second half, Malawi introduced Gabadinho Mhango, Manaseh Chiyesa and Isaac Kaliyati. Fewer chances were created, with Mhango coming close to scoring only to be denied by the magnificent goal custodian.
The hosts could have buried the game just before half hour mark but their effort came off the bar leaving all the home fans in total disbelief.
28 minutes into the half, Mhango combined well with Chiyesa but the latter shot wide from the close range.
At the other end, Nthala made a stunning save to deny the home team from increasing their lead. Mhango had another chance but his header was very weak, giving the hosts’s shot-stopper all the time in the World to clear the danger away and after 90 minutes, it ended 2-nil in favor of the Taifa Stars.
Speaking after the match, Mtawali bemoaned lack of concentration in defense as the main reason why his boys lost the game but was optimistic of turning the tables around when Tanzania will be hosted by the Flames on Sunday at Kamuzu Stadium.
Scoring more than two goals without conceding will be a must for Mtawali’s boys if they are to progress to the preliminary second leg qualifying round where the winner will face Algeria before progressing into the group stages.
Malawi will be hoping to welcome back Robert Ng’ambi who was ruled out of the first leg due to an injury.
Before departing for Tanzania, Mtawali’s squad was dominated by his under 20 national team players he once coached last year, dropping some senior players in the process.
Alot of soccer pundits never minced words as they questioned Mtawali’s squad selection but the mentor quashed all the criticism saying his youngsters were ready for the challenge.
However, Malawi failed to withstand the heat and qualifications chances are now in a major doubt.